Month: August 2009

EARLI General Assembly

Yesterday I attended the General Assembly of the European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction (EARLI), which I became a member of earlier this year.  Participating in the Assembly provided an opportunity to develop a better sense of what the organisation is about, it’s ethos, and get an overview of the various components of it’s activity.

The new president of EARLI was announced – Sari Lindblom-Ylänne of Helsinki University.

The status of the EARLI journals wasdiscussed:

  • Learning and Instruction (L&I) has a rejection rate of of 80% (Sari says: “this is very positive”); it has recently achieved an impact rating of 1.43
  • Educational Research Review (EduRev) has applied for impact rating, the outcome is expected in 10 months
  • L&I receives 250 submissions annually, while EduRev receives 60
  • 169355 downloads for L&I in 2008; 20719 downloads for EduRev
  • There was a discussion about the possibility of  transferring the two journals online (for members, libraries would still receive paper copies) and of creating a thrid journal – no decision has been made and discussions will continue

New editors were announced as well – Lucia Mason (L&I) and Paivi Tynjala (EduRev).

Other news included:

  • EARLI has (unwillingly) joined World Association of Educational Research (WAER), but will reevaluate the decision in two years. WAER provides possibilities for capacity building, development of researchers, international exchange, dissemination of research across the world.
  • A sister association,  European Association of Practitioner Research on Improving Learning (EAPRIL), was established.  The undeprinning argument is that EARLI should not be open to everyone working on anything that has to do with education, rather it must be safeguarded for those who are conducting scientific research. EAPRIL will allow practitioners (teachers, lecturers), educational developers, etc to share and disseminate their practice-focused research.

Metacognition, epistemological beliefs and the division of cognitive labor (EARLI09 Keynote, Rainer Bromme)

Yesterday’s EARLI09 keynote by Rainer Bromme was very interesting, in my view the best one of all of this year’s EARLI keynotes that I had a chance to attend. I have captured some of the ideas and research findings he shared, what follows below is the abstract of his talk and the summary of my notes.

Abstract: “Due to the division of labor in modern societies, knowledge is distributed and used unevenly. Most of the knowledge we acquire through lifetime has been produced by specialized experts, is provided by specialized experts, and it is organized into disciplines, reflecting such specialization. This  division of cognitive labor has implications for our understanding of learning, epistemological beliefs and metacognition. Recent approaches on learning (especially those inspired by constructivist ideas) and research on epistemological beliefs undervalue the division of cognitive labor. Instead, they are in favor of personal knowledge construction, of first hand experiences as the main ways of learning. The implicit assumption ‘own knowledge is better than knowledge attained from others’ is underlying many approaches in educational research. In contrast to this normative assumption, we all remain laypersons with regard to the most domains of knowledge in modern societies. Therefore we will have to cope with experts and with specialized expert knowledge for the whole lifetime. It is necessary to learn how to evaluate knowledge which we do attain from experts. Such judgments are necessary even when they are based on a fragmentary understanding of the knowledge claims. At first I will review such positions held within research on epistemological beliefs and on learning. Secondly I will sketch a research program on students’ capacities to understand how specialized knowledge is distributed (who knows what?) and to evaluate expert sources (whom to believe?). Such capacities entail epistemological beliefs about expert knowledge and metacognitive awareness about ones’ own knowledge. I will then resume some empirical evidence from developmental psychology about children’s intuitive understanding of the division of cognitive labor and I will ask how schooling fosters and impedes such understanding. Finally, some of our own studies about the cognitive division of labor will be sketched. This research focuses on laypersons’ capacities for the evaluation of health related expert knowledge found in the Internet. Based on our research the relationship between metacognition and such capacities will be discussed.”

He started off by defining the notion of division of cognitive labour – “the reliance on the deeper understanding of knowledge held by others when using this knowledge for communication, for categorising our environment, cooperation and decision making”.  Argues this notion is linked with division of labour which has developed in human societies froom prehistoric times, but has increased dramatically after the industrial revolution and expecially recently in the context of knowledge economy and advancements in ICT.  Everincreasing specialisation of knowledge means people need skills in continuous assessment of knowledge claims made by experts.

Argues there is a conceptual distinction between first-hand and second-hand knowledge claims.  The former refers to assessment of “what is true?” and the latter to “whom to believe?”  Criteria of assessment of first hand knowledge claims are well known and well researched (critical thinking, evidence, cohesiveness and logic of argument) and a lot of instructional and research efforts have been focused on dealing with this type of knowledge claims.  In contrast, there hasn’t been enough focus on the second-hand knowledge claims (whom to believe) in learning theory or development of instruction.   [An exception that comes to mind is Harry Collins’s research programme on expertise and his recent book co-authored with Robert Evans].  In addition, traditional approaches to first-hand knowledge claims have been influenced by Piagetian focus on personal, first-hand authentic experience, disregarding the social nature of our knowledge, ie that it does not derive only from indidvidual experience but we have to rely on what others know.

Goes on to argue that laypersons are not novices who want to become experts-above and beyond basic literacy and focus on specific areas, most laypeople become “acclimatised” to broader knowledge but not proficient in it.

Research on metacognition has focused on person’s own cognition, but studying metacognition about others’ metacognition is necessary (who knows what, who has the knowledge to corraborate knowledge claims). This area is currently underresearched. Some people argue that research on theory of mind (TOM) is focusing on this, but that’s not correct – the focus of TOM is on comparing others’ minds to one’s own, ie the focus is still on individual.

Then shares early findings of a range of empirical studies conducted by his group testing students’ abilities to evaluate knowledge claims, in particular identify who to ask when presented with tasks they don’t have sufficient knowledge to complete. Found that majority of  students identified the right experts to ask for further information above chance  [note to self to follow up on these studies, some are not published yet]. Concludes that humans have capabilities not to rely on knowledge by experts and to make accurate judgements on how the necessary knowledge can be accessed even if they are not faimilar with the domain.

Question and answer session focused on discussion of the implications of this research for democratisation of knowledge through web 2.0 phenomenon (how people can assess knowledge that is not created by experts and that has not been vetted by gatekeepers) and implications of this research for educational system (“should there be a subject in schools teaching children how to judge expert knowledge”).

EARLI 2009 Opening session

I am at the opening session of the 2009 Conference of the European Association of Research in Learning and Instruction (EARLI).  The general conference intrductiona and the overview of practicalities was followed by an overview of JURE and presentation of Best of JURE 2009 awards. Best of JURE2009  nominations are:

  1. Greet Fastré, Supporting students in self‐assessment by providing specific assessment criteria
  2. Marjolijn Peltenburg, ICT‐based dynamic assessment to reveal special education students’ potential in mathematics
  3. Jake McMullen, Justifying the margins: the effects of data collection and categorization methods on sociometric measurements in the classroom
  4. Sandra Janssen, The influence of guidance on the quality of professional development plans

EARLI 2009 Conference begins next week: Overview of interesting sessions

I am travelling to Amsterdam tomorrow to attend the 2009 conference of the European Association of Research in Learning and Instruction.

In preparation, I am  going through the conference programme and  putting together a schedule of sessions I would like to attend.  It is difficult to choose, because there are just too many interesting sessions taking place in parallel.

I will use this post as a placeholder for the most interesting sessions so that even if I cannot attend them all I could look up the papers later on.  I am also including papers that might be of interest to my Caledonian Academy colleagues who are not attending the conference but who might be reading this blog.

I myself will be hosting a round table table discussion on methodological issue in studying self-regulated learning in real-world workplace settings (Friday, Aug 28, 10:30-12:00)

TUESDAY, 25/08

Parallel Sessions B (13:30-15:00)

Parallel Sessions C (15:30-17:00)


Parallel Sessioon D (08:30-10:00)

Parallel Session E (10:30-12:00)

Parallel Session F (13:30-15:00)

Keynotes (15:30-17:00)

Parallel Session G (17:15-18:45)


Parallel Sessions H (08:30-10:00)

Parallel session I (10:30-12:00)

Parallel session J (13:30-15:00)

Keynotes (15:30-17:00)

Parallel session K (17:15-18:45)

FRIDAY, 28/08

Parallel session L (08:30-10:00)

Parallel session M (13:30-15:00)

Keynotes 3 (15:30-17:00)


Session O (08:30-10:00)

Session Q (13:30-15:00)

Learning and knowledge sharing in the workplace: Part 2, How people learn at work

The ideas in the post are based on a research study I am collaborating on with Colin Milligan and Allison Littlejohn.  Your feedback would be appreciated.

How are the knowledge, skills and dispositions discussed in the Part 1 being learned?

This is a challenging question, because in the workplace learning takes place continuously, even though it is not always explicit and hence not always recognised.  We asked our interviewees to think about their most significant learning experience in the past year (a project or a task from which they felt they learned the most), but this time we asked them to elaborate on how they learned and what of these learning methods they personally preferred.

We uncovered 9 ways in which the respondents learned. These conscious learning processes range from working processes during which learning occurs (eg vicarious learning or learning from experience) to processes in or near the workplace where learning was the prime purpose (formal learning, coaching and mentoring, self-study).  They are listed in Table 1 (note that all respondents learned in more than one way):

Table 1.  Modes of learning

Mode of learning

Total no of participants who adopted the mode




Formal learning (classroom and blended learning courses, self-paced elearning)





Learning by doing





Learning by discussing with others





Coaching and mentoring





Learning by teaching others





Vicarious learning[1]





Learning by trial and error










Some patterns can be observed:

  • Prevalence of formal learning for all levels of experience, although many interviewees indicated that they preferred to learn via a combination of formal and informal, rather than formal alone.  However our data points out clearly that formal courses are still very important in individuals’ conceptions of what constitutes learning
  • A relatively significant proportion of novices appear to view teaching others as a valuable form of learning
  • Vicarious learning appears to be most popular among novices
  • Experts did not mention engaging in self-study – this doesn’t necessarily mean that experts don’t engage in studying the relevant literature but that perhaps this activity is viewed by them as an inherent part of work rather than a way of learning

[1] Refers to learning by observing others.

[2] For example, reading relevant literature and project documentation

A powerful critique of academic publishing system

In the latest issue of First Monday Brian Whitworth and Rob Friedman deliver a powerful critique of the current academic publishing system:

This final vision of journals as exclusive and isolated castles of specialist knowledge, manned by editor–sovereigns and reviewer–barons, raising the barricade of rigor against a mass assault by peasant–authors seeking tenure knighthoods, is not inspiring. In feudalism an elite few manage the valued resources. When the resource is knowledge “truth” becomes what its self–appointed guardians say it is, and innovation is rejected along with error. Is not “Let them publish elsewhere” the knowledge equivalent of Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake”? A system where the few choose what is best for the many to read cannot be sustained as in the end people must choose for themselves.